HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — As the majority of school districts in the Houston area shift to virtual learning to kick off the school year, the digital divide is becoming increasingly apparent.
A survey of the 15 largest metros in the country conducted by the Census Bureau found Houston had the highest number of families who report their children ‘never’ had access to a computer for educational activities.
In Houston, 7.1% of families said they never had access at all.
The Riverside metro in California was the closest with 3%.
School districts, such as Houston ISD, are ordering thousands of computers, tablets and WiFi hot spots to make sure all students are able to participate in their virtual classes.
The district has 25,000 devices on order that they will distribute this month.
Plus, HISD announced in a board meeting Monday they have ordered another 40,000 devices that should arrive in the coming weeks.
Comp-U-Dopt, a non-profit that provides technology to underserved youth, said 50,000 students in Harris County told them they needed a device with a keyboard to be able to participate in online-only classes.
Since March, Comp-U-Dopt has given out more than 7,000 computers, according to executive director Colin Dempsey.
Additionally, the survey of 1.8 million people in the Houston metro found that 26.4% of devices and 3.1% of internet access was funded by schools in the Houston area.
Reche Jones, owner of Jones Prep and Services, provides one-on-one tutoring for students to better understand the information they are being taught in virtual learning.
The average student in the Houston metro reports spending 1.2 hours a day in live class instruction time and 3.7 hours learning on their own.
Jones, along with a group of teachers who work for her, hope to cut down on the time spent outside of the virtual classroom by providing individualized help.
Jones Prep and Services costs between $20 and $50 an hour.
The Houston Public Library is offering free tutoring for students through its Brainfuse program. A library card is required to participate, but temporary library cards are currently free.
Officials with HPL said they are also offering virtual craft and story times for younger children.